The body of a Polish-born Czarist officer will go on display at a local museum in Turkey’s northeastern Ardahan province, along with the headstone and artifacts from his grave, which was unearthed last year during excavations for a construction project.
In April 2017 the remains of Lt. Col. Karl Karlovich Rjepetski from the First Caucasus Army Corps’ 20th Infantry Division were found by locals doing construction work in Ardahan.
The body, which was in a coffin decorated with the Russian Orthodox cross, was found in the Karagol neighborhood of Ardahan — which fell to Russian troops in May 1877 — and moved to the local museum at the time for safekeeping.
Rjepetski died in 1894 due to illness.
Efsal Alantar, Ardahan provincial director of culture and tourism, told the state-run Anadolu news agency that in line with a decision by the Kars Regional Council for Conservation of Cultural Heritage, a team of experts was moving the headstone and other artifacts from the grave to the museum for display.
He added that with the removal of the remnants from the grave, the construction project could now proceed.
The discovery of the grave has led to a dispute between Poland and Russia, which both claim the right to the remains. Poland wants to give the body a proper funeral and burial since Rjepetski was born there and has descendants in Poland.
But Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told the Turkish parliament in April that “Russia says, ‘There was no Poland at the time … so this is our citizen. They want him to be buried in a graveyard in a Christian village in Ardahan.”
“We are trying to solve the issue without creating a problem between the two countries,” he added.
Rjepetski’s family was from the Volynskyi region of western Ukraine. He trained at an infantry military school in Warsaw, and it is believed that his wife and two daughters lived in Tbilisi, Grodno and Moscow after his death.
At the time of his death, the funeral for Rjepetski, who was Catholic, was conducted by an Armenian church because Ardahan lacked a Catholic church. The death certificate states that he died from a brain hemorrhage.